This article first appeared in the Uncle Wacko’s Gear Corner column of Wanderlust, our ATC Club magazine, June 2020 edition.
It is repeated here as a potential tramping gear resource for NZ conditions.
Warning: Uncle Wacko has strong views and may challenge tramping assumptions and sensibilities!
Plus: Check out the dehydrated food recipes at the bottom of the page.
Food, glorious (tramping) food
On a multiday tramp your food will be the heaviest item in your pack. That’s why most trampers work hard to keep their food weight down.
So what’s a reasonable amount? Most come in between 500 and 700 grams a day. Under 500 grams is impressive, over 700 is excessive.
Here’s what they eat to do that.
Sensible trampers have muesli. The less sensible have oats or porridge, to which they’ll add dried fruit and the like to make it vaguely edible.
One (oddball) tramper swears by semolina, milk powder and dried apricots. Takes all sorts I suppose …
Don’t copy the Germans – they’ll lug around slabs of barely digestible bread, colossal blocks of cheese and masses of dried meat. The weight!
Asians might have soup or noodles or some other such nonsense. Geez!
For something different try Radix’s Mixed Berry Breakfast, it’s stunning.
Add tea or coffee and you should be no more than 170 grams.
The problem meal.
For decades people hauled blocks of cheese to slice up and plonk on teeth-destroying crackers so dense and unforgiving even a Tasmanian Devil would struggle to bite through them. Gourmands would add salami.
For many trampers, not a lot has changed. These days the crackers are slightly more digestible and invariably get crushed to a pulp in your pack. The adventurous might add sachets of tuna or salmon for variety.
Then along came One Square Meals to revolutionise lunch in the hills. Wow, chewy carboard with bits of fruit and chocolate! – this concoction was not only supposed to be nutritionally sound but taste good too.
Funny, OSMs aren’t so popular any more – I wonder why.
And who could forget that other wonderful cardboard-based fad – tortilla wraps. Super light, adaptable and tasted like … well nothing at all actually.
So to make them vaguely palatable, enthusiasts would add peanut butter. You really do have to be kidding! Funny, also not popular any more …
So what do you have for lunch if you’re sick to death of crackers?
Maybe some combination of cheese, salami, a snack bar, dried fruit, nuts or fruit leather. Truth is Uncle Wacko isn’t too sure, so if you’ve got some good suggestions, let us know.
Anyway, you’d want lunch to weigh no more than 140 grams.
Now this one’s more straightforward, with most trampers following something like this:
1. Start with rehydration – a Nuuns tablet, Raro powder or cups of tea.
2. A snack – Uncle Wacko swears by beef jerky and dried mango (try it!)
3. A soup – wonderfully reinvigorating after a hard day’s slog (just as long as it doesn’t have bloody seaweed in it - we ain’t fish!)
4. A dehy meal. A few keen souls with way too much time on their hands make their own, the rest of us buy them. Back Country used to be it, but nowadays you can get great meals from several other companies.
Try these: Tom Kha Gai and Chili con Carne from Absolute Wilderness, Wild Alaskan Salmon from Radix, Kumara Chickpea Curry from Local Dehy. If you’ve only ever had Back Country, these’ll knock your socks off.
5. Finish off with a desert bar, and another hot drink.
This lot should weigh in under 250 grams.
You’ll need 2 or 3 snack bars for extra energy during the day.
You can bulk buy cheaper stuff at the supermarket or … go for the massively hyped up and ridiculously expensive individual bars that proliferate in outdoor shops, on supermarket shelves and online.
Buy whatever you like the taste of and you’re sure will give you the fuel you need. 120 grams a day is tops.
Now these weights are pretty damn generous! You should be less than this really - many multiday trampers are at 450 grams a day. And the difference between 500 and 700g is 2kg on a 10-day tramp.
So take what you need, but don’t be gluttonous.
Several people in the Club make their own dehydrated tramping meals. So we’ve decided to share some of their best recipes.